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Child's Play (Chucky's 20th Birthday Edition) - horror DVD review
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 star
Actors: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff
Director: Tom Holland   Distributor: MGM (DVD & Video)
DVD release: 09 September 2008   Runtime: 87 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (English - 5.1 Dolby Surround, Dolby Surround; French - Dolby Surround; Spanish - Dolby Surround), Subtitles (English, Spanish), Two commentary tracks, "Evil Comes in Small Packages" (The Birth of Chucky, Creating the Horror, Unleashed), Chucky: Building a Nightmare, A Monster Convention, Vintage featurette: Introducing Chucky - The Making of Child's Play, Photo gallery, Trailers, Easter egg

Much has been made about the horror genre's recent turn toward extreme gore and cruelty. What seems to be forgotten, and what I miss most, is that horror films can often be FUN. Watching the 20th-anniversary DVD of Child's Play reminded me how much fun this movie is. Like a good roller-coaster ride, it still delivers genuine scares with some laughs thrown in (and I can still imagine people screaming and laughing loudly when this played in theaters in 1988).

The story is admittedly ridiculous: for the few who don't know, the plot revolves around a six-year-old boy named Andy (Alex Vincent) who is thrilled to receive a new Good Guys doll named Chucky for his birthday. Unfortunately for Andy, his mother (Catherine Hicks), and a few bystanders, it turns out that Chucky is possessed by the soul of notorious serial killer Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif). Soon Chucky goes on a rampage, with the ultimate goal of transferring his soul from the toy body into that of poor Alex.

With such a silly story, why does this movie work so well?
  • First, with one exception (more on that later) the movie is well acted, especially by Hicks and the reliable Sarandon (who also starred in Holland's wonderful Fright Night, another movie that seamlessly mixed laughs with genuine scares, a few years before Child's Play). Hicks gives us a heroine to genuinely care about and be scared for. She is not a dimwitted horny teenager but a single mom scared out of her mind yet fighting to protect her son. Furthermore, she is terrific, especially in the infamous scene where Chucky finally reveals himself (when asked in the extras how she was so successful in acting afraid, her response was simple but effective: "I pretended Chucky was a snake. I hate snakes.")
  • Second, while the movie never takes itself too seriously, it still delivers some genuine scares. It effectively mixes genuinely creepy moments (such as when Chucky, still trying to hide his true self, turns his head to watch a news report about his old partner in crime) with some great jump out of the seat "Boo!" scares. The "revelation" scene for Chucky is set up beautifully: alone in her apartment with the doll, Hicks discovers a package of unopened batteries (this simple shot - which tells Hicks what we already know about Chucky-remains chilling). When Hicks threatens to throw Chucky into the fire, he goes from a doll to a cursing, biting madman in her arms. There are few scenes in movies that are as scary and downright hilarious at the same time. While the revelation scene is the highlight of the movie, other moments are also still scary and well done, such as Chucky's removal of the babysitter, his assault of Sarandon in a moving car, and the final showdown.
The movie is not perfect, however, as some aspects do not work. First, Chucky's disposal of his former crime partner is, I believe, mistakenly placed ahead of the revelation scene. It lets the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and reveals too much about Chucky too soon. Second, Chucky murders another victim by using a voodoo doll of the victim. While I know nothing about this movie should be taken seriously, it still brings up this nagging question: If Chucky can make voodoo dolls, why doesn't he just make one for everyone he wants to finish off? Finally, while most of the performances in the film are quite strong, I'm afraid that Vincent's performance as Andy is rather weak. I somewhat regret criticizing a six-year-old, but I must be blunt: in his key scene, where Andy, in a futile attempt to get Chucky to talk so that the cops won't hall Andy to the nuthouse, Vincent is just not believable (and even seems to stumble over a few lines). Still, the moment where he tells his mom, in his high-pitched, sing-song voice, that "Chucky said Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved" is still chilling.

Even with its flaws, I still had a great time watching Child's Play again and highly recommend this 20th anniversary edition. Chucky remains, as Roger Ebert once said, "one mean SOB," and this movie is still fun.

A 20th anniversary addition deserves to be loaded with extras and fortunately, MGM did just that (including an Easter egg I found):
  • Two commentary tracks, one with stars Vincent and Hicks, plus Chucky designer Kevin Yeager; the other with producer David Kirschner and writer Don Mancini.
  • Selected scene commentary by Chucky himself (they are a hoot).
  • Three small but informative featurettes on the history of the film, from its origins to its release.
  • A featurette on the creation of the Chucky puppet.
  • A brief interview of stars Hicks, Sarandon and Vincent at a 2007 monster convention.
  • A vintage featurette from 1988 called Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child's Play.
  • Still-photo gallery and original trailer.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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